The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires that businesses, non-profits, and government agencies provide accessible services for people with disabilities.
It sets standards for customer service, employment, transportation, and information and communications — and the AODA has specific standards for websites and other digital content.
If your business serves customers in Ontario, you need to comply with the AODA. Following the law’s technical standards can also improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws.
Below, we’ll review 5 common website issues that can impact AODA compliance. We’ll also provide tips for creating a testing strategy that can help you comply with AODA and conform to related accessibility guidelines.
Web Accessibility Standards in AODA
Part 2 of the AODA provides the Information and Communication Standards that apply to websites operated by “obligated organizations.” These organizations include the Ontario government, many public sector organizations, and businesses with 50 or more employees.
Specifically, AODA requires websites operated by these organizations to conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0. These guidelines are divided into success criteria — distinct, testable requirements for accessible websites — organized into three levels: A, AA, and AAA.
The AODA requires website conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level A/AA. Note that WCAG 2.0 isn’t the most up to date version of the guidelines, but the core success criteria are expected to remain largely the same in newer versions (2.1 and 2.2).
5 Web Design Issues That Affect AODA Compliance
Here are five common WCAG 2.0 errors that can lead to noncompliance with AODA:
1. Unsupported Keyboard Navigation
Websites must be navigable by keyboard alone, which requires intentional design. Missing or confusing visual focus indicators can disrupt keyboard navigation. So can some third-party plug-ins and widgets.
WCAG 2.0 recommends functional keyboard navigation in success criteria (SC) 2.1.1, “Keyboard” and 2.1.2, “No Keyboard Trap.” The first SC states that content must be “operable” by keyboard without placing timing limits on keystrokes. The second requires web designers to omit “keyboard traps,” in which the keyboard focus gets stuck on a single component.
2. Inadequate Color Contrast for Text
When there’s not enough difference between the color of text and its background, many users may struggle to read the content. That’s why WCAG 2.0 SC 1.4.3, “Contrast (Minimum)” places a lower limit on the color contrast ratio for text. Specifically, most standard-scale text must have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.
3. Failure to Include Alternative Text for Images
Information contained within images and other non-text content may not translate to assistive technologies, such as screen readers or text-to-speech software.
WCAG 2.0 SC 1.1.1, “Non-text Content” expands image accessibility by requiring a “text alternative.” That means every image on a site requires alternative text (or alt text) for WCAG conformance — and AODA compliance.
4. Lack of Input Assistance
To comply with AODA, web designers should create forms that help users avoid mistakes. Several WCAG 2.0 criteria address this subject, including:
- SC 3.3.1, “Error Identification” - Website forms should detect input errors, and point these mistakes out to users.
- SC 3.3.2, “Labels or Instructions” - Form fields require labels or instructions to help users understand the information they need to provide.
- SC 3.3.3, “Error Suggestion” - Going a step further than “Error Identification,” this criteria requires websites to suggest corrections for input mistakes.
- SC 3.3.4 “Error Prevention (Legal, Financial Data)” - Websites that enable legal or financial transactions must allow input to be reversed; they must check for input errors; and they must give users a chance to review, confirm, and correct their entries prior to sending the form.
These criteria are Level A or Level AA, so conformance with them is required by AODA.
5. Static Text Sizes
Many site visitors may need to adjust text size to read written content. According to WCAG 2.0 SC 1.4.4, “Resize Text,” web designers should provide this functionality — without assuming users have assistive technology that can handle the task.
This criteria requires websites to allow text to be resized up to 200 percent larger than its initial presentation, without losing any content or site functions.
Testing Your Website for AODA Compliance
This list addresses just a few of the requirements web designers must meet to comply fully with AODA. Unfortunately, these flaws are easy for website owners to overlook — and you can’t fix accessibility errors until you know they exist.
Accessibility testing is a strong first step toward meeting AODA requirements.
Just be sure to choose an accessibility partner that uses a combination of automated and manual testing. While automated tools with artificial intelligence uncover many technical errors, only human experts can point out certain accessibility flaws.